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Postcards from Space: The next generation of small satellites

Dennis Gerrits, P200 development team

Following the success of the reliable and adaptable PROBA satellites, we designed and developed the next generation of satellites to define the future of PROBA-like missions and spacecraft.

Next generation small satellites

The design of the P200 platform aims to create a generic platform which could be used for a wide range of missions and studies, capable of carrying varying payloads and is compatible with a wide range of launch rockets. The P200 design also incorporates new propulsion and avionics systems.

The platform has been designed to allow flexibility in various key aspects: for starters, it has a mass of +/-130 kg, thus allowing it to fly at least a payload and mission specific hardware of up to 70kg. This leads to a resulting total mass of the satellite as low as 200kg (explaining the name P200). It is also very flexible in terms of configuration. Depending on the needs of its payload, the platform can be adapted, for example, if the payload needs a lot of energy, solar panels for extra electricity can be added.

The P200 platform in its generic configuration consists of a fully redundant spacecraft with two deployable solar panels, two star trackers, and a propulsion system. The hinges of the solar panels — the “articulations” — are also developed and made in-house to high specification.

The qualification model is now in our new clean room facilities in Belgium. Last April, it passed the environmental tests in Toulouse, where it was subjected to vibration tests and thermal vacuum tests. These tests assure the quality of the product before being sent to space. It is expected that the excellent results obtained will allow the use of the P200 platform for multiple missions to come.